Why You Should Do Obstacle Course Racing to Get Fit

The physical and mental challenges of obstacle racing are great, and they test every aspect of your fitness.

Brock Armstrong
7-minute read
Episode #386

The Obstacle TV Shows

American Ninja Warrior is actually based on a show called "Sasuke," from the Tokyo Broadcasting System which is currently in its 35th season.

If you are watching TV at odd hours of the day, you may have seen American Ninja Warrior on TV. That show is actually based on the wacky show called "Sasuke," from the Tokyo Broadcasting System. Sasuke is currently in its 35th season in Japan which makes it nearly as old as the Tough Guy race in the UK. While the Japanese version is whimsical and almost brutal in its humor, the American Ninja Warrior takes itself a little more seriously and adds elements of drama rather than humiliation.

The Ultimate Beastmaster (on Netflix) is similar to Ninja Warrior (and Sasuke) in many ways. The biggest difference is that the course is an impressive structure that is designed like the insides of an enormous beast. The dinosaur-like design takes it so far that the obstacles are actually called the Digestive Tract and Spinal Descent. Contestants enter through the mouth of the beast, and well, you can guess the rest. One of the hosts, former NFL football player turned actor Terry Crews, loves to remind the audience of this beastly resemblance with his bloody catchphrase.

The biggest difference between these shows and the events that you and I can participate in is the lack of running between obstacles. I would guess that it has to do with camera angles and duration of the show. If a camera had been following me for the 2+ hours I was out running around the ski hill looking miserable in my first Tough Mudder event, the audience would have turned off the TV and the show would have been canceled before I crossed the finish line. So it makes sense that the TV versions are set up the way that they are. That being said, CBS did cover the Spartan World Championships in Lake Tahoe in 2017, so who knows what the future holds for televising these events.

Obstacle Fitness

In my article and podcast called What Does the Word "Fitness" Really Mean?, I outlined what I think are the most important parts of fitness. And no, six pack abs and a thigh gap are not listed. Interestingly though, many of the components that make a well-rounded and fit human are involved in obstacle course success.

Components such as being able to:

  • Carry a heavy load of groceries, a child, or supplies home,
  • Get around our office building or apartment without the need for elevators,
  • Stay on our feet for an entire workday without the need to sit down,
  • Move large pieces of furniture to clean behind,
  • Walk, run, or cycle to our workplace or perform errands,
  • And (as strange as it sounds) squat or sit on the ground without the need for a pillow or lumbar support.

I don’t want to go all ‘survivalist weirdo who lives in a bunker’ on you, but to recap some of my points from that earlier article, let me ask you this: if a particularly un-cute dog was chasing you, would you be able to lift your own bodyweight over a fence to avoid getting your shoes nibbled? If your home was on fire, would you be able to lower yourself off of your balcony or roof to safety? If your car broke down in the middle of nowhere (with no cell service), how far could you powerwalk to get help? Not to mention the all-important question: in a zombie apocalypse, could you outrun one of those fast moving Zombies from the movie "28 Days Later"? These are all skills that you would develop if you trained for an obstacle course race.


About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show.